Germany has become world renowned as makers of luxury cars. While they make vehicles that are affordable for everyone, like their line of Volkswagons, German car manufacturers have focused on providing the world with luxury driving experiences with cars like BMW, Mercedes, and Audi. After capturing the market on luxury road travel, it comes as no surprise that German engineers are aiming to become the number one luxury drone taxi maker as well. There are currently several drone taxis, or personal electric air vehicles, on the market. China, Dubai, and New Zealand have all begun drone taxi trials. Now Volocopter based out of Bruchsal, Germany is ready to join the race on conquering personal air travel.
In 2011, Alexander Zosel and Stephan Wolf founded Volocopter with the goal of designing a manned multicopter, a heavy lift drone that could be flown by a person. That year they demonstrated the world’s first manned electric multicopter, the Volocopter VC1. Famously nicknamed the Yoga Ball Volocopter because of yoga ball-like structures used to assist in gentle landings, the VC1, and subsequent VC2 was just the beginning of Volocopter’s dream of becoming the best urban air mobility providers.
In October of 2020, Christian Bauer, Volocopter’s Chief Commercial Officer, introduced to the world their newest drone, VoloCity. This new personal transport drone is unlike any available. It embodies everything that German luxury vehicles stand for- unparalleled safety, comfort, advanced technology, convenience, and grace. Every inch of the VoloCity’s interior was designed to make a passenger feel comfortable and luxurious. A large storage compartment leaves ample legroom while you relax in plush leather seats. A touch screen entertainment and information console can display a live itinerary, company information, current news, or general entertainment options. And a wide window allows the passenger to see the world from a bird’s eye point of view.
Luxury comforts aside, what truly makes this drone taxi unique is the redundancy safety features that position the VoloCity to become a viable urban air mobility service. Lightweight landing gear, like the skid bars on a helicopter, have replaced the yoga balls to absorb impact for smooth, gentle, stable landings. On the aircraft’s nose are cameras and sensors to detect obstacles. The drone also has 18 rotors and 9 battery packs. If one or more of the rotors of battery packs fail, the others will ensure that the drone can complete its flight and land safely. Even though the drone has 18 rotors, they operate through an acoustically narrow frequency range making them very quiet. And as the company states, “Flying has never been this easy. This is because state-of-the-art assistance systems and more than 100 microprocessors ensure perfect stability and control of the Volocopter. Altitude control, balance, and landing can be intuitively managed by control stick. Even when the pilot lets go of it, the Volocopter automatically holds its position.”
The VTOL (Vertical Take Off and Landing) drone uses lithium ion batteries and can support a flight distance of 22 miles at a maximum speed of 68 mph. While this may not seem like a great speed or distance, it is important to remember that these drones are being positioned for travel through city landscapes. They will not have to compete with any ground traffic allowing them to rapidly and easily traverse a city. To drive that distance with traffic and obstacles like stoplights and pedestrians could take up to an hour in many cities. An unobstructed drone flight would only take 20 minutes jettisoning travelers from point A to B with ease.
Bauer points out that the Volocity is not quite ready to begin transporting passengers through a city. But as he said, “The Volocity will be the first commercially licensed product based on requirements set by the European Aviation Safety Authority.” Earlier this year, Volocopter entered into a partnership with German logistics experts, DB Schenker, to ensure safe logistical flights by 2024. Initially, all Volocity drones will be operated by an onboard pilot leaving room for a single passenger. Soon thereafter Volocity drones will be available for complete autonomous flights that can support two passengers. With the support from DB Schenker, Volocity drones will begin trial flights later this year. The trials are set to take place at the general aviation airport, Pontoise Airfield, about 20 miles northwest of Paris.